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The cyclo-cross vs gravel conundrum: understanding the differences

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

The cyclo-cross vs gravel conundrum: understanding the differences

Old 11-07-19, 06:11 PM
  #26  
Ghazmh
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What you really need is to have a gravel bike and a cross bike This is of course in addition to a road bike.
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Old 11-11-19, 01:25 PM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by Ghazmh View Post
What you really need is to have a gravel bike and a cross bike This is of course in addition to a road bike.
And 2 mountain bikes, a commuter, a fixie, and be thinking about a tandem for date night!
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Old 11-12-19, 03:52 PM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by wsteve464 View Post
GCN, gravel v CX
Yeah, I have commented on that one before. Like a lot of their videos - it really depends on things like setup.

I was choosing between those two bikes. I picked the slow one (yellow CX) and set it up like the Gravel (green one) (I use 40mm tires, 2x, etc) so I have the best of both worlds for my needs - light, fast, and agile. None of the negatives apply, all it took was configuring it in 2x and then a change in tires. Everything that made the green bike faster just doesn't apply to me. For that type of riding it really comes down to tires though - 32mm tire just is going to be a lot more work and slower than a 40mm tire.

Funny, a friend who bought the gravel version didn't like it because it lacked a little agility and of course he has more pedal strike with the lower BB. Everyone has different needs...

Last edited by chas58; 11-14-19 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 11-12-19, 04:01 PM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by gravelslider View Post

What you really need is to have a gravel bike and a cross bike This is of course in addition to a road bike.
And 2 mountain bikes, a commuter, a fixie, and be thinking about a tandem for date night!
I know. I have them all. But the CX bike is the only one that gets any love

Well, then there is the tandem for date nights - that creates love!

Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
Am I wrong in thinking that GRAVEL bikes are just a more comfortable CX bike with usually more tire clearance? And the two categories are mere marketing talk to sell more bikes?

Both are drop bar bikes with larger tire clearance. Some more aggressive than others, some larger tire clearance than others.
Kind of, although all modern CX bikes take 40mm tires (gives great mud clearance with 33mm tires). They have migrated a lot towards what gravel needs. And, they tend to have lower stack, higher BB and be a little more agile - so they put the rider in a more "racey" position.

Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Of course racing MTB on a CX would just be bonkers.
LoL, true.
Our large national level 30 mile mountain bike race was won on an aggressive gravel bike last year (I think it was an OPEN). This year it was a little too mudy for a gravel bike.
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Old 11-13-19, 03:00 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by wsteve464 View Post
I like GCN as much as the next guy, but this video is an unfair comparison. Gotta get those views though!
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Old 12-01-19, 05:44 AM
  #31  
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As mentioned, main differences are bb height and tire clearance (in general). Whether that affects/bother you, that's a personal question. For me, yes it matters enough that I'd want a frame with slightly lower bb and the ability to take 40mm+ tires comfortably (even though I do like steeper angles and shorter chainstays).
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Old 12-01-19, 10:06 PM
  #32  
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sometimes the differences between a "gravel" bike and a "CX" bike are nothing more than the factory-equipped tires and gearing (see: Scott Addict "Gravel" vs. "CX", SC Stigmata)
Sometimes the differences between a 'gravel' and a 'cx' bike are substantial (see: Diverge vs. CruX, Checkpoint vs. Boone, Topstone vs. SuperX)

I have a Diverge and a SuperX. I legitimately have zero use for the Diverge, except for Commuting. The Diverge is just an endurance road bike with big(ger) tires. If I could get value for the Diverge, I'd sell it in a heartbeat.
It is slower steering, but impressively stable on high speed descents. The SuperX is faster in every kind of terrain, it steers much faster, is far more agile, and climbs better (due to geometry and it being about a kilo lighter)

If you think the difference between an 'endurance' bike (such as a Roubaix) and a 'race' bike such a Tarmac are enough to make you want to choose one over the other, then go for it.
If you want to hook stuff to the bike, and need a bunch of connections, you could get a 'gravel' bike, or you could get a "less racy" type of CX bike (like a CAADX, for example) as many of them are multi-purpose. Some (CruX is a good example) are pure race bikes and don't have any type of connections for a rack or fenders, etc (easy to get around, but still less convenient)

Last edited by sgtrobo; 12-26-19 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 12-02-19, 11:36 PM
  #33  
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My only question is do either come in a 26" wheel size?
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Old 12-04-19, 05:20 PM
  #34  
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Just find a bike that you like, and ride it. It’s really that simple.
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Old 12-05-19, 03:04 PM
  #35  
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"As mentioned, main differences are bb height and tire clearance (in general). Whether that affects/bother you, that's a personal question. For me, yes it matters enough that I'd want a frame with slightly lower bb and the ability to take 40mm+ tires comfortably (even though I do like steeper angles and shorter chainstays)."

Maybe the question should be the difference between a cross bike and a GOOD gravel bike. A GOOD gravel bike will be designed for comfort over a much longer time in the saddle (definitely not a characteristic of a cross bike where you spend maybe 30 minutes riding at a time) and usually will have a slacker head tube angle to make is less jumpy and take less effort to keep in a straight line over 100 miles. GOOD gravel bikes also have lots of vertical compliance build into the frame while a cross bike designer would say "what the heck is vertical compliance?"

Last edited by gravelslider; 12-05-19 at 03:09 PM.
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Old 12-06-19, 11:12 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by gravelslider View Post
"As mentioned, main differences are bb height and tire clearance (in general). Whether that affects/bother you, that's a personal question. For me, yes it matters enough that I'd want a frame with slightly lower bb and the ability to take 40mm+ tires comfortably (even though I do like steeper angles and shorter chainstays)."

Maybe the question should be the difference between a cross bike and a GOOD gravel bike. A GOOD gravel bike will be designed for comfort over a much longer time in the saddle (definitely not a characteristic of a cross bike where you spend maybe 30 minutes riding at a time) and usually will have a slacker head tube angle to make is less jumpy and take less effort to keep in a straight line over 100 miles. GOOD gravel bikes also have lots of vertical compliance build into the frame while a cross bike designer would say "what the heck is vertical compliance?"
Couldnt disagree more.
What is good for me in terms of geometry would annoy others. And vice versa.

If someone views a good gravel bike as one with a suspension fork/stem/seatpost with 80mm of trail, then they wont view my gravel bike as good since it has a rigid fork, stem, seatpost, and 56mm of trail. Yet I view my bike as a good gravel bike.
There is simply no consensus on what 'good' is, nor should there be. The market is diverse and it allows each user to find what they view is good. Its a fantastic situation to face as a consumer.

The spectrum on what a gravel bike is quite wide and inclusive right now. I fail to see the harm in that. I will sometimes question why a bike is designed a certain way, but its usually out of curiosity versus contempt.
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Old 12-08-19, 06:05 PM
  #37  
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One of the weird consequences of the gravel bike radiation has been the parallel growth of misconceptions about cyclocross bikes and their geometry. Mostly that, as race-focused bikes, they will be much twitcher and hard to ride than a gravel bike. It’s funny, because not so long ago, everyone knew that if you wanted a more-relaxed road style bike, a cyclocross bike was what you should get. While one of the good things (imo) about gravel bikes taking off has been cyclocross becoming a more race-focused category, that doesn’t mean the geometry is unsuitable for gravel riding. Especially now in the Age of Disc, as CX bb heights get lower, tire clearances get more generous and wheelbases get longer, most will be very suitable as gravel bikes. Personally I couldn’t justify having a cyclocross and a gravel bike. It just makes no sense. Too much overlap.

To this day, both categories are wide enough and encompass enough different philosophies that it’s still best to think about what you’re looking for in a bike and look carefully at the options that are available. You can’t just buy a generic CX bike or gravel bike and know what you’re getting the way you basically can with a road bike.

Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
+1. It doesn't help that "cross" bikes were always kind of a nebulous market anyway. Sometimes they were legitimate cyclocross racing bikes, sometimes they were cyclocross-ish try-to-do-anything bikes, sometimes they were just warmed-over hybrids.
Yes. This is well put. These days, most cross bikes are “legitimate cyclocross racing bikes,” which is helpful if that’s what you’re into (as I am). But they’re as usable as ever as gravel bikes.
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Old 12-10-19, 08:50 AM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by sgtrobo View Post
I have a Diverge and a SuperX. I legitimately have zero use for the Diverge, except for Commuting. The Diverge is just an endurance road bike with big(ger) tires. If I could get value for the Diverge, I'd sell it in a heartbeat.
It is slower steering, but impressively stable on high speed descents. The SuperX is faster in every kind of terrain, it steers much faster, is far more agile, and climbs better (due to geometry and it being about a kilo lighter)
That is a good way to put it. like mstategflr said "What is good for me in terms of geometry would annoy others. And vice versa." The people who want ride 100 miles without much turning may like the slower steering.

make is less jumpy and take less effort to keep in a straight line over 100 miles. GOOD gravel bikes also have lots of vertical compliance build into the frame while a cross bike designer would say "what the heck is vertical compliance?"
Compliance: not really so true these days - although that was true 5-10 years ago. My CX bike is so cush that the first couple of weeks I kept checking to see if it had a flat tire, lol

"effort to keep straight" I hear this stated a lot.
In my personal experience, it doesn't matter much to me. I can ride any (production) bike with no hands - so riding in a straigh line all day isn't a problem. For me, the biggest drawback is stack height. If I'm sprinting, I'm down low. But if I'm doing a steady effort long ride, I'm gonna get a little tired of being in a lower position after 5+ hours.

Cargo: Couple of water bottles, frame bag, seat bag and I'm good.

CX bikes don't do great with panniers, if you are old school (and they would be hard to mount anyway). But they do slightly better with frame bags because they have more room in the rear triangle.

Anyway, food for thought.

Last edited by chas58; 12-10-19 at 09:19 AM.
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Old 12-11-19, 05:06 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
I'm just sick of people saying they need a gravel bike not a CX bike, like CX bikes can't go off road. THEY BOTH GO OFF ROAD WELL AND ARE LOADS OF FUN.
i don't own either, but have been shopping (browsing). i feel like for the type of riding i do (ass kicking marathons, with hard 90 degree turns every 20 minutes), i'd like to have 2x up front. really, the biggest difference i can tell is that i'd just rather not go with 1x.

i plan to get some gravel rides in, and then do 3-4 cx races every fall. always been a road bike guy, so this seems like the biggest factor for me. am i wrong? is 1x pretty cool on gravel too?
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Old 12-11-19, 05:16 PM
  #40  
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I have a CX bike and I use it for road, occasional CX and gravel. I run a 1x 40t up front with 11-42 in back. Its great on road, gravel and cross. Coming from a 2x road bike I don't miss 2x at all. The CX geo is fun, nimble and aggressive. I don't miss my road bike at all, I have no need for a gravel bike. It's all marketing jargon. A wide tire clearance CX bike is the 1 bike to rule them all.
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